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A Horse Stile: Testing, Recommendations, and Drawings

By Ellen Eubanks, Landscape Architect
Photos by George Toyama, Visual Information Specialist


In 2006 the Forest Service, San Dimas Technology and Development Center, published "Vehicle Barriers: Their Use and Planning Considerations," which contained a horse gate design. That design showed the step-over at a height of 17½ inches. Feedback from readers was that this step-over was too high for horses. The design also did not accommodate packed stock. The name was changed from "gate" to "stile," which is more appropriate to its function. The purpose of the stile, on nonmotorized designated equestrian trails, is to allow stock to pass through while making it more difficult for motorcyclists to do so (figure 1). The stile also preserves the nature of the setting and the purpose of the facility.

Figure 1. An inexperienced horse and rider negotiating the stile.

Stile testing was done to help ensure that dimensions were such that stock and rider could traverse it, and that motorcycles could not. The testing was a process of elimination. Only two stock types—horses and mules—were considered. Each test animal was ridden through the same configuration unless the configuration was shown to be hazardous after the first few riders had gone through.